It’s no secret that Victoria is home to some of Australia best mountain biking; thanks to its cluster of alpine resorts and a summer that outlasts the winter. Mount Baw Baw is Melbourne’s closest mountain, and scattered atop a pristine alpine environment are a lesser-known network of mountain bike trails dipping in and out of grassy ski-fields and old access roads.
Words: Brodie Chapman
Images: Andrew Railton
Baw Baw is a secluded getaway where you can traverse the mountain on the older and newer trails, or punch runs all weekend with a mighty quick turnaround and views to boot. The Mount Baw Baw summit lies around 150km east of Melbourne and around 50km north east of the township of Noojee along the Mt. Baw Baw Tourist Road.
The road up Mt Baw Baw is one of the steepest in Australia, with an average gradient of 7.7% and an elevation gain of 962m in 12.5km. The road meanders through a Jurassic era feeling rainforest, and is akin to driving up some rich persons driveway. The road climb may not interest your average downhiller but if you think about how rapidly it ascends, you can anticipate the rewarding descent!
Baw Baw caters to riders of all abilities with trails starting from family friendly fire roads and singletrack trails that meander through the snowgums, to the exciting challenge of the black diamond DH1 trail. The 3km descent off the top drops over 300m, with some of the fastest riders clocking times just shy of 3 and half minutes down the race track. There are multiple lines to the bottom, so it’s a choose your own adventure run that mixes it up to keep it interesting.
Testing the trails of Baw Baw
A few of us headed up in November, when there was still piles of snow and winter seemed to have missed the check out memo. The green season at Baw Baw doesn’t officially kick-off until the 10th of December, so the trails still had bed hair only having just shaken off winter's residue. As keen as we were, our premature arrival meant we only got to ride the DH1 track. Despite a bit of leaf litter, we got to run our wheels over the cool features such as the wooden wallride, the fast approach step downs and rock rollovers. With such a varied topography tied into one trail, it is easy to see why the VIC DH series has been a return event over the many years. Natural features dominate the trail and inspire a raw, loose ride over the granite outcrops and lush loamy dirt – it's a different world to the machine built trails popping up in many areas. DH1 is a trail you can ride over and over on trail bikes or downhill bikes, dialing in new lines and shaving seconds off your time. The enduro athletes out there who crave a bit of cardio can test their skills on the fast and technical descent and then back it up with some threshold training with a liaison back up the road. Marginal gains right? If max-value runs are more your style, take advantage of the Blue Dirt Mountain Biking Baw Baw shuttles that will be taking place starting from 10th of December.
AMB spoke to local shredder Dru Berryman who has played a large role in maintaining the mountain bike trails and creating the mountain bike culture up at Baw Baw for the past couple of summers. Stationed as the mountain bike ambassador for the mountain, Dru was a key influencer in getting the trails up to scratch. As well as racing the EWS in Whistler, Dru has and has spent many a summer up at Mount Buller, so he has the insight into what makes world-class mountain bike destination.
Dru reckons the most unique thing about Baw Baw is that all the trails are man made with no machinery, or as he puts it, the trails work “with nature, not against it.” He says “the network consists of a variety of hand made very natural terrain from fast technical rock sections and slippery off camber roots to chill-flow along the side of the mountain through boulders and snow gums”.
Dru’s favourite track is Muellers, which he describes as an all-mountain trail. We didn’t have the luxury to give this one a crack, but Dru is a trustworthy source and we can’t wait to get back there when the season is in full swing!
You might as well book flights to Victoria for the entire summer, so once you have done that, chuck your mates in a troopy and head north-east from Melbourne. Don't forget to pack some food and fill your car with fuel – there's none available on the mountain. Grab your necessities and last minute bike shop bits from Chilli Cycles in Warragul, where there is also major supermarkets in the vicinity.
At an altitude of 1460m and located centrally is The Village Restaurant which overlooks the lowlands and the top of the downhill track Opening hours are:
Friday: From 10am for lunch and dinner.
Saturday: from 8am for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Sunday: from 8am for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Monday: 10am-5pm - Snacks only; wraps, focaccias, chips, wedges, nuggets, cakes and coffee.
Baw Baw Sports & Outdoor is a sports shop with off-road scooters, skateboards and mountain bikes for hire as well along with basic grocery items such as BBQ Shapes and Icecream. Expect to pay mountain prices for these goods if you didn’t stock up on snacks prior to the drive up!
Head to the Mt Baw Baw website to browse through your accommodation options. The best value lodges include Flachpackers, Backpackers and Frosti Lodge. AMB stayed in Frosti Lodge, which boasted a spacious communal kitchen and loungeroom, with private rooms or bunk rooms, multiple bathrooms and a well equipped kitchen. Contact the resort for further information as mountain biker accommodation packages are in the works.
Shuttles for the 2016/2017 Season at Baw Baw come courtesy of Blue Dirt Mountain Biking. Lifts up the hill will run non-stop from 9am to 4pm on select weekends – check Blue Dirt's website for the dates, and don't forget to book your spot – they will be in high demand.